Saturday, September 30, 2006

VisualStore notes the "return of the kiosk"

As I wrote about in Digital Signage News, Visual Store is running an article about in-store digital merchandising techniques. Check out their paragraph on interactive kiosks making a return:
We're also witnessing the rebirth of the kiosk (the Edsel of the 1990s). Virgin Records recently launched a floor display where customers interact with a music video. Gesture-recognition software senses the interaction and projects interactive content.

Small, inexpensive micro point-of-purchase devices, attached to shelves, have pre-loaded advertising messages, both static and animated. Taking the concept one step further, micro tag players use new OLED (organic light emitting diodes) technology. These displays are thinner, brighter and have a 180-degree viewing angle for video and animations. This technology has also fashioned the next generation of name tags, so that staff can stand out from the crowd.

Electronic ink is a new product that uses charged particles printed onto a plastic film and layered to a sheet of circuitry. These pixels are then controlled by a display driver, which is charged by battery, about the size of a candy bar. The device can be used for shelf signage and menus, and can feature up to seven images. Touch-interactive or smart-shelf technology features a hardwire embedded into a shelf. As items are removed and replaced, audio and visual messages start up and speak to the customer.
You can read the full article here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Protocall raises $2M for DVD burning kiosks

According to this article on Long Island Business News, software maker Protocall Technologies has raised $2M in financing to let consumers burn DVDs on-demand via kiosks placed in public venues:

Protocall, founded in 1992, obtained the cash infusion from investors AJW Partners, AJW Offshore, AJW Qualified Partners and New Millennium Capital Partners II. The company hopes to use the funds to introduce its TitleMatch system, which lets retailers burn movie DVDs on demand to sell in stores or online without keeping a stock of movies on hand.

Protocall spokeswoman Lori Teranishi said Protocall is in talks with “movie content owners” about getting access to their titles, and with retailers about providing on-demand movies at their locations.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The case for browser-based kiosk software

James Kruper, President of Kioware, has put up a nice opinion piece on the case for browser-based kiosk applications over at Normally I wouldn't plug a competitor's perspective too much (it's a bad habit :), but to be honest WireSpring doesn't often compete against Kioware directly, and more importantly, we do take a very browser-based approach to kiosk software, so the more perspectives, the better.

While Kruper focuses on the ability to re-purpose applications and use plug-ins to give kiosks the ability to place Word, Excel, etc. documents into a browser, I think I'd take it one step further: a well designed Internet-based web application should really be just a few style sheets away from being an excellent kiosk application. Usually, if somebody has put the work into making their Internet-based app functional and easy-to-use, it should only be a matter of optimizing the front-end interface to work in a self-service environment. While that might have been tough in 1996, with today's CSS and XHTML standards, a well-formed app should easily be up to the challenge.

What's more, the state of browser interactivity has advanced an enormous amount in just the past 18-24 months, to the point where JavaScript and DHTML have become powerful enough to enable just about every self-service application that I've seen. As I've said before, building applications based on standards-compliant technologies can only be a good thing. The only people to suffer from standards compliance are those plugging their own proprietary application development platforms, and I certainly don't see a need to help them in their cause.

QSRs turn to self-service and automation to combat labor shortage

According to this article at the Dallas Morning News, a shortage of workers is causing some QSRs to more aggressively explore automation and self-service devices (including ordering kiosks). I thought this quote from Hudson Riehle, SVP of Research for the National Restaurant Association, was quite interesting:
"Restaurant operators will purchase technology with more zest because the traditional labor pool growth is not there."

For years, restaurateurs have seen the crop of willing workers – traditionally teens and early twenty-somethings – shrink.

That's due both to shifting birth rates and competition from other employers.

The restaurant industry will need 1.8 million additional workers by 2015, Mr. Riehle predicts. That compares with 3.5 million in health care, which often pays more.

While many of us think of labor shortages and automatically imply skilled labor, for QSRs the case is quite the opposite, since low-wage unskilled work is critical to the operations of practically all fast-food chains.